Living with lockdown fatigue
Feeling exhausted? You’re not alone.
The consequences Covid-19 has wreaked on the world feel like the hazy and implausible plot of a cheese dream. Or a make-believe story from a strange child who doesn’t yet understand how the world is supposed to work. “People got sick and some died, everyone had to stay at home and there was no school.” Whether your life has been touched by death, illness, fear and uncertainty, or you’ve been luckier, lockdown fatigue is real.
Not knowing when you’ll be let out of lockdown or knowing when the next one will come can create some heavy emotions and plenty of background brain noise. So if you’re feeling flat while you do the responsible thing and stay at home to help combat the spread of Covid-19, try these ideas to get you through.
Should is a dirty word
Accept things for the way they are, not the way they “should be”. It’s easy to sink into the quicksand of dreaming about what you could be doing if you weren’t in lockdown, but it’s ultimately unhelpful. Acknowledging the way things are and avoiding indulging “the shoulds” isn’t an admission of defeat, nor is it nihilism. It’s actually an ancient Stoic Philosophy method of letting go of your frustrations, taking away their power and helping you refocus your attention and energy on the things you can change to make your time in lockdown better, or at least less painful. Concentrate on what you can change and impact and if you can’t control it, don’t waste your time trying to.
Another notable case focusing on what you can control is Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor. He said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” For sure, grieve the pre-Covid days but don’t stop in the doldrums. Keep processing and identify some things you’re grateful for. Even when lockdown becomes rolling lockdowns, and you feel like you’ve lost control of your situation, remember you can always control how you respond to things – you always have the freedom to choose how you react.
Call the spade a spade
If you’re not doing great, don’t pretend you are. Feel your feelings, don’t judge yourself and don’t you dare compare your response to lockdown to others’. Everyone experiences challenges differently. It can be helpful to try and put words to your feelings. By articulating how you’re feeling, it removes some of the uncertainty about why you’re feeling so emotionally terse and can help restore a sense of control rather than that creeping anxiety that shadows emotional uncertainty. And if you’re feeling shit, that’s okay. Talk about it with someone and if you can get to the point where you’re able to laugh about the absurdity of it all – you’ve won the battle, if not the war.
Not houses. Christ, can you imagine trying to move mid pandemic – madness. Move your body. It’s hard to train for a marathon stuck in your living room but there are plenty of alternatives – yoga, pilates, dance classes, bodyweight circuits. Lockdown flooded Youtube with all kinds of awesome workout videos. Give yourself a fitness goal and then concentrate on turning it into a habit.
If your goal is to be able to do 30 push ups, focus on building a daily habit of doing push ups every morning. If you build the habit, the results will come as a byproduct. And to build the habit, try stacking it onto an existing habit. If you make coffee every morning, start doing your pushups while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. If you don’t know the best way to work towards your fitness goal, search for some answers online. Working smarter always trumps working harder, so make sure your efforts are helping you move towards your goal.
Self love isn’t always gentle
Be kind to yourself! Listen to your body, listen to your mind, give yourself some love because you deserve it. Sometimes that might mean a mid-week bottle of wine, sometimes that might mean being harder on yourself and prioritising healthy habits and longer-term goals over mid-week blow outs and short-term pleasure. When you’re stressed, it can help to lean into nihilism in the short term. Sometimes, often even, you need to sacrifice short-term joy for greater longer-term happiness. When tossing up how to spend your time, ask what’s going to generate more satisfaction in a week or a month’s time. You may need a night of nihilistic bludging. The next day, shift your focus (and your energy will follow) to what you can do to work towards feeling better, happier, healthier – whatever it is you’re chasing.
We’re pack animals and being isolated from your pack is hard and its consequences can creep up on you. You might be chatting to heaps of people in group chats and social media but digital’s no replacement for analogue. If you realise you’re missing your people, call them. Organise a video call. And if you’re sick of bingeing Netflix, organise a quiz with your mates. And if you can’t be bothered making your own (Kahoot is pretty great), you can tap into Jimmy Carr’s quizzes on Youtube.
Stay busy. Apparently Shakespeare wrote King Lear in lockdown while the plague ravaged England in 1606. And Bo Burnam wrote and recorded Inside during the 2020 lockdown. Which is more impressive? Tough call. This idea that we should be hyper productive and make best use of every minute of every day we have during lockdown can fuck right off. Lockdown has a real emotional and mental price, so go easy on yourself. Be realistic. Be proactive, stay busy with projects or life admin – it’s a great time to catch up with those annoying tasks, like doing your tax and transferring your super to an ethical superfund (it’s often as easy as one click by the way). Busy people get more done. Once you make a start it’s easier to maintain momentum.
Sleep makes the world go round. Well, it makes tomorrow come around anyway. If you’re feeling flat, check you’re getting enough quality sleep. If you’re not sleeping well, check your common offenders; excessive caffeine, lack of exercise, blasting your brain with a screen right up until you jump into bed, and sleeping in too much can be sabotaging you. There’s no correct bedtime, just make sure you’re getting some quality zeds.
TV is not the answer
I’ve streamed a lot of TV over the last year – a nauseating amount actually. Part of it has been the glut of amazing shows coming out, part has been to escape reality, and part has been to numb my brain into a passive quietude. With several thousand lifetimes of content to watch, have you ever wondered why we rewatch shows and movies? Apparently one of the subconscious reasons is that the familiarity and safety of knowing what to expect is super comforting and helps combat anxiety.
A friend recommended Alone on SBS on Demand – a reality show where they drop 10 survivalists in the remote wilderness and whoever survives the longest wins half a million dollars – it’s epic. They film themselves, they are allowed to take 10 items and they have to live off the land. The show offers a fascinating insight into the human psyche and there are some great misadventures thrown in too. It also makes you appreciate your fridge and pantry a little more – sure beats eating seaweed and trying to trap small game.
Another show at the other end of the TV guide is Ted Lasso starring Jason Sudeikis as the impossibly optimistic and upbeat American football coach who moves to England to turn a loser football club around. He speaks about a saying popular with the supporters of beleaguered English Premier League football teams. It’s borrowed from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – “it’s the hope that kills you”. Ted Lasso disagrees with history’s greatest playwright and football fans and believes it’s the lack of hope that comes and gets you. If your days are feeling hopeless, shapeless, joyless, remember that this is temporary. Lockdown will pass. Tapping into the energy of purpose each day is as simple as writing a list of 3 things you want to do and working through it. Keep it simple, do your list, be kind to yourself and move your body. And most importantly, seek additional help if you need it. Most healthcare professionals offer telehealth appointments so you can connect with the help you need from your home.